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Over the past decade, Facebook has added new privacy features the way farmers used to build additions onto their houses: Haphazardly and only as needed. As a result, users are left with a sprawling array of choices. Turn this corner, and you might realize that every third-party app you’ve ever authorized still has access to your account. Turn that one and you’ll stumble across the fact that you’ve been sharing photos publicly, even though you thought they were only shared with your friends. Checking every single privacy option takes time — but it’s time well-spent if you care about controlling your privacy online.
Before we start exploring those random rooms, though, it’s important to note that while you can control what other people see when it comes to your Facebook activity, you can’t control much of what Facebook sees. Facebook is “free” — but you pay by allowing them to collect and sell information about what you do on the platform. So if you opt in to the network, you’re also opting into giving up a certain amount of privacy. That’s just how the network keeps running and if that’s something you’re not comfortable with, you’d be better off disabling your account than reading the rest of this guide.
Let’s start with the basics.
Facebook recently introduced a Privacy Checkup tool that’s great if you just want to make sure your basics are covered. To access it, click on the question mark icon in the upper righthand corner of any Facebook screen. This pulls up a drop-down guide, and “Privacy Checkup” should be a little past halfway down.
In the Facebook app, tap over to the Help & Setting section, and scroll down until you see Privacy Shortcuts on the list. Tap Privacy Checkup to get started.
If you don’t see it, it might not be available yet for your area or device — Facebook hasn’t rolled out this feature for everyone yet.
Facebook will guide you through three steps to make sure you’re sharing your posts with the right people. Let’s go over each step now.
The first thing you’ll be checking is who can see your posts. You can choose from the drop-down whether you want posts visible to:
If you click “More…” you’ll also have the option of “Specific Friends.” Changing the setting here will affect all of your future posts — it becomes your default setting for posting.
However, if you want to make certain posts available to different audiences, you can do that with each individual post in the future. Just click on the little bar at the bottom righthand corner of the post to change the privacy setting for that post.
From the user’s perspective, it’s a lot quicker to just click and authorize Facebook as a login for a third-party app than it is to type in all of your information. It’s important to note that when you authorize a Facebook login on a third-party app you’re not only potentially giving that app access to your Facebook account (especially in the beginning of third-party logins, when privacy was less protected) but you’re also building a daisy-chain of connected logins. The longer that chain is, the more susceptible you are to cybercriminals if any of those accounts are compromised.
So the best move is to delete any apps you’re no longer using from your Facebook profile. Just review the apps that are currently connected with your Facebook account and click the little “x” on the ones you don’t want to be connected to anymore. You also have the option to delete any posts associated with the app from your timeline and whether or not you want your use of the app to be visible to anyone else online.
The basic privacy check for your profile gives you a quick look at the info that Facebook has deemed most likely to be an issue: Your email, birthday, hometown, and relationship status. For each one, you can choose whether you want that information to be available to “Public, “Friends,” “Friends except acquaintances,” “Only me,” “Custom,” or “More Options,” which is where you can pick groups that you belong to. For those of you feeling a little self-conscious about getting on in years, you can choose to share the day but not the year — or vice versa, if you prefer.
But don’t think this is everything visible on your profile! Go to your profile page, where you can edit Work and Education, Places You’ve Lived, Contact and Basic Info, Family and Relationships, Details About You, and Life Events. Each one is fully editable — you get to choose how much information you want to share, and with whom.
It’s worth noting that while it’s a good idea to take a look at your whole profile, Facebook did kind of nail it with this one. The information they have you check in the Privacy Checkup is really the most sensitive stuff, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much you need to do, it’s okay to skim this part.
So that was the basics. And for most people, that will probably be enough. But we know that many of you want more control — and in the case of internet privacy, that’s always a good thing. Your Privacy dashboard offers more controls so you can fine-tune your privacy levels on Facebook.
On desktop: To access your Privacy dashboard on the web, click on the downward pointing arrow button in the upper righthand corner of your Facebook screen. Scroll down and click on “Settings.” Once you’re in “Settings,” click on “Privacy” in the left-hand toolbar.
In the mobile app: Navigate to the Privacy dashboard in the Facebook mobile app, tap over to the Help & Setting section, and scroll down until you see Privacy Shortcuts on the list.
If you went through the Privacy Checkup, this part should be taken care of already. If you, you can manage your access to your profile here, including who can see your posts, who can contact you, and who can find you when they search for you on Facebook.
If you click on “Use Activity Log,” you’ll be brought to the Timeline Review page (mobile app users will need to tap back one screen to find this section).
You can review everything that’s been posted on your Timeline, as well as what activity is visible to whom. This is where we really get into control freak privacy and it’s up to you how deep into the weeds you want to dive. With that in mind, we’re going to go over the generalities of each section and you can do what you want with that information.
Under “Activity Log” you can see every action you’ve taken on Facebook. Each action has its own icon telling you exactly who can see it — take a look and make sure you’re not sharing information that you’d prefer to keep private.
Items to Review is a list of posts you need to approve before they’re put on your timeline. If you haven’t opted into that option — or if you’ve been reviewing items as they come along — this space will be blank. If not, it will have items for you to review. The option just under Timeline Review — Tags Review — is the same, but for tags. These will be someone else’s posts that you are tagged in, such as a friend’s photo or a link that they’ve tagged you in.
Your Posts shows your own activity log - posts that you’ve shared on your profile. You can retroactively edit the privacy level of each post, hide it from your timeline, or delete it altogether.
These are lists of posts others have tagged you in, such as photos, videos, status updates, or links to articles they think you might find interesting. You can see here whether or not the post has been shared to your timeline, and if not, you choose to show or hide it from your timeline, as well as report the post if you find it offensive.
As you can guess, these are posts you’ve either hidden from your timeline or posts you have not yet approved for your timeline. You can choose to add a post to your timeline here or report it. Or leave it alone to keep hiding it.
You’ll find photos you’re tagged in or photos you’ve shared in these lists. You can choose to share these photos on your timeline, hide them from your timeline, or untag yourself.
You may be surprised to learn that if your privacy settings are public, everything you like on Facebook is shared on your public timeline - meaning an innocent “thumbs up” on an out-of-context post might raise some eyebrows. At any rate, it’s a good idea to routinely visit your Likes list. It’s not uncommon to accidentally or unknowingly thumbs up a post, especially if you’re scrolling down your feed on a mobile device.
Review all the comments you’ve left here. You can see if you’ve made the comment publicly or which privacy level it was made at. You can’t adjust the privacy level after you’ve left the comment, but you can delete it.
Under comments is a “More” button, which will reveal a drop-down that includes every other type of post that could be on your timeline or your friend’s newsfeeds. Take a quick look to see if you’re concerned about any of these, but there’s a reason they’re hidden behind a drop-down — and it’s really just because they’re usually not a big deal.
Finally, if you’re curious about what your apps are posting to Facebook, click on the “All Apps” option. Here you can see both a chronological timeline of everything that’s been posted to your wall via an app and what each individual app has posted. You can also control the visibility of each post with the drop-down option to the right.
Back in Settings, there’s an option to limit the audience of past posts. That means that no matter what permission you gave previously, all of your old posts will be switched over to friends. This is a handy option when, for example, you’re applying for jobs and would prefer that potential employers had a more limited view of your activity online.
To put this feature into effect, all you have to do is click “Limit Past Posts” and then confirm that you want to do that. And if you want a more surgical approach as opposed to slashing it with a hatchet, you can always go in and individually change permissions on each post.
If you want to enjoy Facebook but don’t want to be accessible to everyone in the world, you can limit both who you want to allow to contact you and who can look you up on Facebook. Under “Who can contact me?” you can choose who on Facebook is allowed to make friend requests — “Everyone” or “Friends of friends.” Under “Who can look me up?” you can decide whether or not people can look you up via your email address, your phone number, and whether or not external search engines link to your profile.
With the addition of tags, Facebook made it possible for other people to identify you in posts. That’s great if those posts are, say, pictures of a friend’s kid’s birthday party. It’s less great if those posts are pictures of a friend’s bachelorette party. However, if you just tweak the Timeline and Tagging Settings a little bit, you can control those tags before they’re shared with everyone from your grandma to your boss.
The first section lets you choose who can post things on your timeline, as well as when those posts will go live on your timeline. If you don’t want anyone to post on your timeline, choose “Only me.” If you want to make sure you know what’s going to be posted before it’s up there, enables the option to review posts.
This is the section where you get to choose who can see both what you’ve posted and what friends have posted on your timeline. There’s also a “View As” button, which lets you see how your timeline looks to the public or a specific person. It’s a great way to review what you’re revealing on your profile.
With tagging, anyone can add your name to any image. But with the managing tags section, you get to decide both who can tag you and where those tags will be seen. The first option is “Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook?” which can be toggled to “enabled” or “disabled.” If a stranger asks to tag your post, you’ll always be notified before it’s added but this helps you decide what your friends can tag.**
The next question asked, “When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren’t already in it?” This lets you decide whether or not people on your friends’ list can see posts that you’re tagged in.**
And finally, “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?” This one is a little trickier. Remember those name suggestions that Facebook makes when you’re tagging an image? This is where you get to decide whether or not you want your name to be suggested. While this might seem harmless, it’s important to note that opting into this feature gives Facebook permission to include your face in their database of images. This is untested waters — we don’t yet know what else those images could be used for — and Facebook is actually
Blocking is one way that Facebook gives users control over who can see their posts, who can contact them, and who they never want to hear from again. It’s great for pushing back against online harassment or, in more serious cases, keeping people safe from stalkers or other people who might want to do them harm.
First of all, you have the ability to put people on a restricted list, which means they won’t see things you share only with Friends. It’s a way to stay friends without sharing everything with them — and without them knowing that they’re not seeing everything you post.
Blocking someone is a more complete move. If you put someone on your block list, they won’t be able to see anything you post, tag you, invite you to anything, the message you, or re-add you as a friend. It does not, however, affect games and groups that you both are a part of.
Pretty self-explanatory: This allows you to block messages and video calls. It doesn’t, however, prevent someone from posting on your timeline, tagging you, or commenting on your posts and comments.
Sick of your aunt constantly trying to get you to play Farmville? Put them on this list and Facebook won’t show you any more app invites from her.
We all have that friend who lives across the country but still invites us to every event. Put them on this list and you won’t get those invites anymore.
This section lets you block apps, preventing them from contacting you or getting any info about you that isn’t already public on Facebook.
The same goes for any pages you choose to block — they won’t be able to interact with any of your posts or comments. However, you also won’t be able to post on their page or message them.
As we mentioned before, Facebook is “free” because they collect and sell your user data to advertisers. Facebook uses four main sources (and they’re careful to use language in their guide that suggests there are other sources they’re not telling us about): activity on Facebook, the information you’ve shared with a business, “other online activity,” and your location.
This one is pretty straightforward. Facebook shows you ads based on Pages you’ve liked, pages your friends have liked, information from both your Facebook and Instagram profiles, and places you’ve checked in to on Facebook.
In your ad settings control for this option is under “Your ad preferences.” This is where Facebook tracks everything you’ve interacted with on the site. You can choose whether you want to see ads for each thing, but you can’t turn them off altogether.
If you’ve given a company your email address or phone number, they might add it to their customer list, which they’ll then cross-reference with Facebook’s ad program to show you relevant ads. Facebook says this info can come from loyalty programs, “information compiled by data providers,” and when you make a purchase in a retail store.
Have you ever noticed an ad on Facebook that relates to an item you were recently looking at on another site or a site you recently visited? That happens because that site is using
You can control whether or not your activity on other sites is tracked with a Facebook pixel in the section titled “Ads based on your use of websites and apps.”
Facebook has something called the Facebook Audience Network. It’s basically their own ad agency. Companies that pay to participate can “expand their Facebook ad campaigns” beyond Facebook properties and on to any mobile app or mobile app on computers, phones, and connected TVs that participates in the program.
To opt-in or out of the Audience Network, toggle to “yes” or “no” in this section.
Facebook’s privacy policies are constantly shifting. Every time the company adds a new feature a whole new set of potential issues arises. We work hard to keep this guide up to date but it’s always a good idea to check on the site itself for more information. Good luck!
In any case, Avast Secure Browser is here to help you with your security and privacy needs. Why not give it a try now? It’s free! Click here to learn more.
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